When We Get There

When We Get There

by Shauna Seliy

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is When We Get There by Shauna Seliy.

So I’ve been doing this show for about a year, and I find that I’ve been getting a few kinds of books, over and over — chick lit, murder mysteries, fantasy and horror. Now, just because I see these genres over and over doesn’t make them bad at all — I protect you from the bad books — but I recently had to take a break from serial killers because I was starting to look around the bus and think, yeah, this one looks like a guy who could chop you into pieces and stuff you in the trunk of his rental. Oh good, he’s sitting next to me!

Sometimes I have to take a chick lit break. One too many sassy gals with man trouble, you just want to reach into the book and slap the cosmo out of their hands.

It’s not often I get a book that doesn’t fall into a category, and it’s easy to see why. Publishing is a business, and if the publishers can’t figure out what to call the book, they can’t figure out how to sell it. And if the author is an unknown, it’s even more of a risk. So I want to thank the publishers and editors for taking a chance on Shauna Seliy and When We Get There. If I have to boil it down, I’d call it a coming of age story set in the hardscrabble dying coal towns of Western Pennsylvania in the 1970s. But there’s so much more going on. Lucas is 13 and trying to figure out what happened to his beautiful mother — she just vanished and no one will talk about it, except her heartbroken, homicidal ex-boyfriend. He thinks Lucas knows where she is. Lucas lives in the shadow of the old country. Most of his relatives are first generation immigrants from Bosnia, Croatia, the Ukraine, and the book is embroidered with the folk stories they brought along with them when they arrived on these new shores. He loves and fears his grandparents and great grandparents, just as he loves the bizarre (to me, anyway) and tortured landscape of the abandoned mines and slag heaps all around him.

Like her hero Lucas, Shauna Seliy took those places with her when she left Pennsylvania, and it was so interesting to hear her talk about figuring out how those exotic moonscapes were also home.

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